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Towers of Books Come Tumbling Down!

I love all kinds of books! For all my friends, I am known on GR as Alicja. I don't stick with a genre, that's boring. Instead you'll get reviews from the most random assortment of fiction and non-fiction works. It's probably due to my interests being as eclectic as my book tastes.


I'm a girlfriend-loving bisexual, science fiction geek, PC gamer, historical fiction devourer, hiker, atheist, history buff, opera lover, vegetarian, kayaker, metal and hard rock concert goer, science nerd, politics debater, world traveler, M/M romance fan, and I have the ability to transform from an adult-like hard-working professional into a screaming fangirl in five seconds flat.

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

The Winter King - Bernard Cornwell

Rating: 5.5/5

Summary: The tale begins in Dark Age Britain, a land where Arthur has been banished and Merlin has disappeared, where a child-king sits unprotected on the throne, where religion vies with magic for the souls of the people. It is to this desperate land that Arthur returns, a man at once utterly human and truly heroic: a man of honor, loyalty, and amazing valor; a man who loves Guinevere more passionately than he should; a man whose life is at once tragic and triumphant.

(summary from goodreads.com, I just couldn't do it justice)

Review: Cornwell uses what little historical facts there are regarding the originator of the Arthurian legends and plays around with history to show us what could have been (meaning no magic). He freely admits that he had a lot of room to play and that this is just one interpretation, but damn, it's a brilliant interpretation. All the well knows characters are included (Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, King Uther, Morgan, Galahad, etc.) but not necessarily as the legends describe them.

I adored this first part in the trilogy from almost the first page (I have to admit that the first 40 pages or so were a bit slow and had so many names and places I was a bit confused but it gets straightened out soon enough).

Cornwell is a genius in depicting exciting and realistic battles (at least seemingly realistic to someone who has never fought a medieval battle herself). My pulse raced as swords and spears and shields clashed. But Cornwell doesn't sacrifice story or character development for the battles. All the major characters are fully and vividly drawn, making this a fast-paced and exciting romp through 5th century Britain while keeping the reader invested in the outcomes and stories.

The story is told from the POV of Derfel (who I found is a lesser known knight of Arthur), living at a monastery during old age he decides to write down his story to set the record straight.  I love Derfel; he is loyal yet morally conflicted about some of what he does for loyalty, he is in love with unattainable women yet he still loves them fully, he is brave but not without fear. And the relationships are just brilliant, Derfel is the perfect reflection of their personalities. And yet he is not unbiased, he loves and hates through his own interpretation so we are left with an incomplete picture, there always remaining something hidden, elusive living in the shadows. And Merlin is, well, the craziest Merlin I've ever read. Love, love, love Merlin!

Can't wait to pick up the next novel in the trilogy!